The line between medicine and magic is not as sharp a divide as one might think. When I first saw a fever and delirium resolve rapidly as the result of antibiotics, it certainly seemed like "magic".
I felt the same reaction when I first saw a rapidly deteriorating patient respond to a decoction of plants which I had literally brewed up only an hour before. In this case, the patient had seen an excellent Western practitioner earlier that day who could do nothing for her.
A week of standard-of-care therapy had permitted her condition to worsen alarmingly. She was beginning to show signs of sepsis, a disorder which is often fatal.
Fortunately, both experiences were early in my medical training and so readily created both an awe and tremendous gratitude for the traditional medicines of our ancestors as well as their modern descendents.
Truly, when a pain that has been present for years, and has been unresponsive to all of the surgical and pharmaceutical technology that modern medicine can apply, yet resolves by the insertion of a few dollars' worth of stainless steel needles, it does seem like magic.
This magic, in appearance, is reminiscent of the magical thinking of childhood, where enchantment and spells are accepted as part of the order of the world. As we grow up in the West, and certainly as we become physicians and scientists, this view of the world is increasingly rejected.
The "magic" of traditional medicines actually lie in the subtlety of the understanding which its practitioners have of the causes and treatments of disease. This is not hidden from view as an occult science would be, but rather it reflects an unlooked-for reality that requires a process of initiation, training and personal discipline to achieve.
The traditions of magic in the Orient have little in common with the magik of Western occultism, or the conjuring practices of performing magicians. Students of medicine may benefit from careful study of the magical aspects of Oriental medicine.
Dr. L.B. Grotte, M.D., was the first physician in Ohio to be board certified in both acupuncture and Chinese herbology. He has studied Oriental medicine since 1972 and has practiced Oriental medicine in Cleveland for more than 27 years. Our small practice specializes in creating individualized treatment plans combining Western and Oriental methods. Call us at 440-461-7488 to make an appointment or visit our website for more information.